Thursday, June 28, 2007


*******WORTH-IT***** DISCLAIMER (Mitchell): I must first repeat that this movie is NOT for everyone. I'm not trying to condescend with that statement, but it is true. This story is evocative and depicts the saddest states of the world. It does not discriminate and it does not sugar-coat, but it reveals deep, dark secrets, and even darker struggles. It fingers love, sex, marriage, and happiness, BUT this emotional story will never accomplish this for everyone. There is much graphic physicality in this film, as the story centers around one woman's inability to achieve the Big O, and honestly, it is so extensively graphic, I believe many would not be able to get past it. If you are able to set that aside and separate the content from it's deeper intensities, you'll see the movie for the humorous, saddening, and honest story that it is. It is told beautifully in its honest nature, the acting is genuine and convincing, and the story is uncomfortably moving. The writer intended shock, so expect worse than the worse, but once braced for it and detached from the sexuality, you'll enjoy the movie as much as I did. You'll sympathize for the characters, see them simply as disheartened people and might even realize they are characters you recognize.

A Mighty Heart: A Mighty Story

MUST-SEE: This is an extremely well-made film depicting the true account of the kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journalist, Daniel Pearl. The story is told in a series of bustling camera-shots taking us along the in-depth search through Pakistan, and at home where Mariann Pearl and the team worked to solve the kidnapping. Jolie plays Mariann honestly and strongly. She becomes a character we not only sympathize for, but actually respect, admire, and envy for her strong heart and self-less emotion. The film paints her as one who was concerned with the world's well-being, as she constantly reiterated that she was not the only one suffering. She reminds us much about terrorism in her refusal to be 'terrorized.' As the tension heightens, up to the moment when the group discovers Pearl was dead, Mariann remains the glue, the encouragement, and the motivation for the room. Undoubtedly, you will not leave this film untouched. Her story (while pregnant) cannot be ignored. Her 'mighty heart' cannot be dismissed. The film accomplishes the goal of placing the audience into the drama. Yes, what happened post-911 was tragic, but the genuine heart-wrench we are unable to feel during a loss we are physically untouched by is captured here. You become part of the story. You become one of the ones touched. The tragedy becomes real.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Big Fish: Big Hit

MUST-SEE: This is another film I put off seeing. Thankfully, a series of recent recommendations encouraged me to watch it this past weekend. It was fabulous. Talk about eye-candy: this film was a canvas of bright colors, illustrious texture, and people in all shapes and sizes. A traditional fantasy-film, this movie brought to mind clips of Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Great acting done by MacGregor, Bonham-Carter, Lohman, Finney, and Lange. This film made me laugh, think, and cry. It's a mystery, a fantasy, and a family-values film all-in-one. It clinches the epitomes of each genre, and meshes them so accordingly, it deserves a category all its own. The film's trickling momentum reflects the slow realization the son comes to about the man his father was claiming to be. Although at times predictable, the unwinding is so entertaining, and touching, that although you may have expected what happens, you are delighted in seeing it enacted. For those who have seen the film, you'll agree that this mood is an intentional act of the director and writer. As the final scene is expected by our narrator, when told, as a detailed story, enriched with elements of fantasy and nostalgia, it evokes feelings that no expectation could have prepared us for. It tantalizes the eyes, comforts the heart, and pleases the mind to such an extent, I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it, and hope it holds its uniqueness in a place where an appreciation for fantasy and imagination can reign.

Catch Me If You Can

WORTH-IT: I think this movie was overlooked by the world. I remember when it came out, but for some reason, I wasn't excited to see it, and as a result, never did. Until this weekend. And after watching it as a way to pass time during an 11-hour car-ride, I think I may have underestimated it's worth! First of all, Leo, Hanks, and Walken deserve to be watched, no matter the film. Especially when they exist together, how could I have not seen it earlier? Despite that, I am recommending everyone who hasn't to see it now! It's a great story, based on true events, about a teenager travelling under several false identities, as numerous career-men, creating and cashing false checks, and getting rich to avenge his father's trouble with the IRS. The story is simple, yet intriguing. The characters are believable and interesting. To be honest, the plot never leaves you on the edge of your seat, but propels you forward sans any boredom or monotony. Each new identity entertains the audience and flushes out Leo's character more and more. We see him as a naive teen, a mature pilot, and a cunning young man. The costume and absurdity of his plight holds your interest, and that it's true keeps you partially on his side. The bottom line here is that this film satisfies a need for cops and robbers entertainment we never see in such frank simplicity. Set in the fifties/sixties, the novelty is the ignorance of the old-fashioned American way, and the clincher is the irony alongside its education.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Painted Veil

WORTH-IT (Curran): The Painted Veil offers us a portrait of a familiar love story that brings unlikely individuals together. (Think, Beauty and the Beast). Walter (Ed Norton) brings his newly wed to China with him, where he is sure to make her fall in love, or torture her for not. Unfortunately, when her feelings tend towards a mutual friend instead, he threatens her with a messy divorce and relocates himself and her to a refuge suffering from a cholera epidemic. As a viewer, I am unsure whether or not he wanted her to die from the cholera, or remain completely miserable, but the script writes beautifully of the boredom, the frustration, and the heartache that occurs beneath that motives. Naomi Watts plays wife to Norton's Walter. Her classic look of elegant simplicity makes her the perfect twenty-something looking for security in love, but yearning to hold onto the life of adventure she knew prior to marriage. The story is about self-discovery, and identifying with those around you. It's about softening the heart, and opening your mind. It's done beautifully, with extenuous mountain ranges, crystal blue rivers, and lush greenery filling your eyes in time for a cholera-filled climax threatening any chance for happiness. Well done and most enjoyed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Amores Perros (Love's a Bitch)

WORTH-IT (Inarritu): Does the title speak truth or what? Taken from a common understanding that love is worth it, but comes with heartache, this film plays on several kinds of love, fleshing them out to the bare bones of what makes a heart tick. A chain of interlinking stories, Amores Perros carries us through the lives of people in love. Every story includes love for a partner and love for a dog, therefore, appropriately titled in pun. Although I think Babel accomplishes more as far as transcendence goes, Amores Perros uses fewer stories to depict his feeling on the topic. We are taking busily through lives of poverty, parenthood, stardom, and loneliness. Witnessing the fast-paced, streamlined mindsets of each character, we see how one's ignorant selfishness can be the breakdown of another. Also revealed is the assumption that no matter who or what you love, there is someone out there, loving another, that will inevitably screw up your scenario. That might be an extreme take, but what would a movie be without extremity. I believe Inarritu intends to shock people into realizing their own self-indulgence, and uses love, the world's most commonly sought after emotion to portray it. The acting is phenomenal, the characters are believable, and the fast-paced story-switching keeps your attention and keeps you intrigued. It is a long movie, be ready for that, but because it is titillating the whole way through, you'll feel like you just exited a hell of a roller-coaster. Especially if you saw and liked Babel, be sure to see this movie.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Good Shepperd: Good Try

ALMOST: Wow, this movie doesn't work. I was disappointed in the result, as I eagerly anticipated a dramatic suspenseful film filled with twists and turns along the path to the CIA. What I got was a jumbled time line of scenes without any guide as to how to connect the dots. The scenes were wonderful. Great acting from Damon, DeNiro, Jolie, Hurt, etc (all-star cast). Great dialogue and powerful emotion within each frame. Unfortunately, they don't work as a whole. The dateline pops up at the beginning of every scene, making it confusing to keep up and keep a hold on when is when and what happened when. I was lost on who was who, and who worked for who. I also wasn't convinced by Damon's Edward Wilson to be a good guy. And the movie is way too long. After watching, I cannot decide if it could have worked as a chronological story or as simply one flashback, but whichever, they didn't achieve it this way. Too many people with too many stories and too many sides makes it one big flop in my opinion. If you're willing to watch this nearly 3-hour ride, you might eventually put together what happened, but until then, you and I both will remain in the dark on the birth of the CIA.

Knocked Up: Thumbs Up

WORTH-IT: (Apatow humor) This movie is a wonderful surprise! Not only is it better than 40-year-old Virgin, but it is funnier, and more realistic. Sure it's crude, and beware, there is a prosthetic vagina for the birth, AND the newborn is more realistic than any I've seen (think, messy), but the humor is real. The characters, you know them; two VERY opposite people united by fertility for a nine-month journey through drugs, love, and baby-books. They like each other, they love each other, they hate each other, they love each other... you get the picture. I won't name this as the year's next Oscar hopeful, but watch it anyways for all the elements you miss in the Academy picks. The supporting acting is wonderful as well, family and gynos alike. Everyone delivers funny with a jolt of realism to perfectly satisfy your need for a comedy that compliments your sanity and intelligence. This movie is life, with a few cameos, so enjoy it.


ALMOST: (Shainberg) Fur offers us an imaginary sketch of the beginning of Diane Arbus, the controversial photographer who committed a mysterious suicide in 1979. Arbus's biography is one favoring the dark side of society. Growing up rich and marrying conservative, Arbus swings her interests in the opposite direction. She finds her own inability to feel 'normal' amongst her brethren to stem from the element in all to be a little freaky. Kidman displays Arbus brilliantly as a silent and curious woman, just barely able to sacrifice her innocence. Kidman's soft spoken voice delivers a fragility in Arbus's confidence that depicts the inner struggle this woman faced. In this film, Arbus (Kidman) gives in to the influence of the hairy Lionel Sweeney (Downey, Jr.). Sweeney, a lovable man-dog who introduces her to the people that become her subject matter: giants, dwarfs, Siamese twins, and other 'freaks.' Her husband, her children, and her society disapprove, but Arbus's identifies and loves each for their powerful courage to exist with such tragedy. Their love for life puts her own life in perspective and as the prior becomes less and less meaningful, her talent grows. Whether or not this "imaginary" portrait accurately portrays who Arbus was or what she went through, the story is good. I give it an ALMOST because the acting was brilliant and the story was intriguing, but there could have been much more. We are set up for loose ends with her daughters, her husband, and her own path. And, to be a portrait of someone so influential, it needed to tell more of her story. See it for its power to make your heart ache for the 'freaks.' Let it reveal something to you about your own judgement.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Bicycle Thief

WORTH-IT: (De Sica) This 1949 Italian black and white story about a destitute man and his young son searching the city for his stolen bicycle is long, slow, and depressing. There are no high points, there is no great saving love story, there is no moral, really. BUT, this film has a certain spark that kept my interest entirely, and proved magnificent for its age and time. One of the first to experiment with Neorealism, The Bicycle Thief depicts a man at his end, struggling to survive and support his family. As the story drags on, we begin to see we're watching the downfall of a man, through his own perspective and through the eyes of his son. We see him forget his own moral, and slowly identify among the lowlifes he once despised. His search ends, as does the film, as he blends into the crowd of downtrodden poverty, walking home, a face lost in the crowd with a hardship left unsolved and deemed unimportant. The acting by the main man and the boy playing his young son is extraordinary and convincing. The scenery is drab, dark, and dirty. The music is dramatic and depressing. But, for a movie that wishes to leave nothing untouched in the picture of suffering post-war Rome, all these elements work masterfully together. And for such an early film, work well beyond its time. If you can accept that the film is slow (think Pursuit of Happyness) and depressing, and allow its monotone to touch you rather than bore you, you will witness a fabulous illustration of struggle and self-realization that reaches through black and white and into a color of emotion.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mr. Brooks

WORTH-IT: First of all, this is a serial killer movie, so no matter what critics say regarding its graphic intensity, suspense level, or what not, it still has murders that center around a serial killer who is sick and twisted in the mind, beyond the average life-happy human being. That said, this isn't really a story about killing people. I promise that makes sense. The actual story is really ABOUT the serial killer. Costner's Mr. Brooks is an addict tormented by his evil alter ego (a haughty William Hurt) to continue killing people in his same "Thumbprint Killer" style. The story is compelling. Because it's told from Brooks pov, the audience is, of course, meant to sympathize for him. We're on his side. Strangely, we're on the side of the detective (Demi Moore) as well. And so is Brooks. Confusing? I promise it will make sense. What we have here is a good film: a compelling story about a man with an addiction. He loves his family and his life, but he hates his self. It's also a story about another man (Dane Cook, pretty much as Dane Cook) with an addiction. He can't control it, and he's slightly dense. But his ignorance and attitude leave him as a least favorite. I enjoyed the movie. I felt the intensity that was created by telling the story from an altered viewpoint left a deeper impact than one would have been from the victims. It was suspenseful and meaningful. A good time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Holiday

WORTH-IT: The Holiday is a story of two women looking for love in all the wrong places. As a last resort, they desert their entire lives to live halfway across the world, in hopes to forget their heartache, and regrasp their hearts. What begins as an escape though is a reality that good love does exist. They find it in friends, in new routines, and they even find it in new men. Although Diaz exhibits some obnoxious acting personality, the movie's stars, Winslet, Law and Black really carry this film to a higher level. It's witty, honest and heartbreaking. It's relatable, warm and above all, cute. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. A rough start with Diaz shreeking and over-performing was followed up by a wonderful composite of Black's humor, Winslet's grace, and Law's sexy gentleness. It was a girly movie to the nines, so men: probably not your next favorite. Women: you'll love it. You'll cry, you'll laugh and you'll appreciate it's honesty. Winslet, it's great to see your variability. Even in a predictable storyline, your genius shines. She truly takes any character above and beyond it's calling.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Black Book (Netherlands)

(Verhoeven) MUST-SEE: You must see this movie. But, view knowing you will read subtitles. The film is a story of Rachel (van Houten), a young Jewish cabaret star in hiding during WWII. After she witnesses the slaughtering of her family and many other Jews during an escape journey, she goes into hiding in a different way: in plain sight. She joins up with a rebel crew of men and women out to take down the gestapo. She dies her hair (all of it... I mean, ALL of it) and cozies up to the head honcho himself for a chance to spy on the army and avenge her family's killing. The film beautifully depicts Rachel's life of struggle, heartache, and fear, it tells a sad story honestly and graphically. It hits hard deep in your stomach, revealing some of the reality the Dutch lived through during the war. The story was diverse as well, going from whodunit to love story to war movie. It has an appropriate nostalgic feel throughout, capturing an old-world ethic of people and scenery. The coloring is vibrant, the music a perfect fit, and the rouge is as red as ever. I think this movie is exceedingly deserving of its acclaim (including the Venice Film Festival win) and should be viewed. I will say I was deeply saddened, even after the credits, by this film. It hits hard and suggests how ignorant we may be over here to the pain that once existed.